HIS WIFE TO SELL LAND AND SLAVES DURING THE CIVIL WAR
J. SEMMES. Autograph
Letter Signed to his wife, no place [probably Virginia], 4 November
[no year, probably 1861]. 4 pages, 4¾” x 7¾”.
War-date letter to his wife from Paul J. Semmes, a Confederate general
who was mortally wounded at Gettysburg. A banker and planter from Georgia,
Semmes fought with distinction in many battles in Virginia and at Antietem
in 1862. He was wounded at Gettysburg during the attack on the Round
Tops on July 2, 1863, and died eight days later.
letter to his wife, Semmes offers extensive advice on financial matters,
affording considerable insight into the problems faced on the Confederate
home front. The letter is dated only “Monday 4 Novr.,” but 1861 is noted in another hand, and the 4th of November did fall
on a Monday in 1861. The content also makes it clear that this is a
Civil War-date letter. Semmes owned a plantation in Arkansas, and his
comments here focus on his affairs in that state.
you can sell land, even at low prices, part cash –
the balance in 1 & 2 yrs, do so by all means. We must not miss any
reasonable opportunity of getting money from this source,” Semmes tells his wife. “Indeed, the money will do us much
more good than the land, even if the land be sold at low prices –
The state & county taxes will now be very high;
the war tax, much higher. Altogether, the taxes will be enormous & must be paid. If money cannot be raised otherwise to
pay the taxes, the sheriff will sell the land. If the
land is put up at tax sale, you may know that it will bring a mere song.” Semmes then gives details about the money owed by two men who have purchased
Arkansas land from him, so that his wife can collect it, should the
opportunity present itself.
owe the saw mill man over $100 – his mill is about 9 miles off,” he continues. “If a stay law, staying the
collection of debts, has been passed by the Ark. Legislature, you need
not pay him. If not, as I dont exactly recollect the
amount, pay him $100, & tell him I will pay the balance ere long.
There are about $200 due the Irish Ditcher McMurphy. He rendered an
account for considerably more, which is not correct. The true amount
is a little over $200. If there is no stay law, pay him $100, or, if
you can spare it, $200, & tell him he shall have the balance ere
long. I have sent the accounts of the Miller & Ditcher to Manassas
with my extra baggage, & dont recollect the exact amounts; but do
recollect that there is due the former over $100 & the latter $200
– Perhaps you can sell something on the plantation that ought
to be[?] spared, & pay their debts, or parts of them. Consult Palmer
about selling lands, &c &c &c.
we had a dry plantation, only tolerably fertile, the
cotton crop would support us,” Semmes remarks. “If
you believe that some of the negroes ought to be exchanged or sold, sell them & buy others in their places, &c
must close – Mr. Dunwoody is about to leave. Much love, Dear wife
– Much love to the dear girls & lads[?] – I hope you
will all spend a comfortable & contented time, if a not very pleasant
one at the plantation. Maloney has never sent the land deeds.
Get them from him in Helena – You recollect he got them long ago
from the State, & was waiting a safe opportunity to send them to
me at Columbus.” He has signed, “Farewell
Yr Affec H[usban]d Paul J Semmes.”
is a stab hole near the center of each page, causing a very small paper
loss, that affects about four words of text slightly. The letter is
lightly toned, and there is a small stain in the lower part of each
page. However, all of the text is quite legible, and the letter is in
good/very good condition overall.
letters, especially of war date, are rare. $2000.00
Pages 1 and 4 of the letter are shown above; pages 2 and 3 are shown below
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